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Sondheim Musical Offered June 5-15 at Centenary's Marjorie Lyons Playhouse

Contact: Centenary News Service, 318-869-5120, or
Robert Buseick, Marjorie Lyons Playhouse, 318/869-5075

SHREVEPORT, LA -- Merrily We Roll Along, a musical by Stephen Sondheim, opens for a seven-performance run at the Marjorie Lyons Playhouse on the 5th of June and plays Thursday, Friday, Saturday for two weeks and closes on the 15th of June with a 2 p.m. matinee. The production is being directed by Robert Buseick, with music direction by Kermit Poling, set and costume design by Patric McWilliams, light design by Don Hooper, and choreography by Aaron Girlinghouse. The technical director for this production is Paul Belcher.

Merrily We Roll Along begins when three best friends -- Franklin Shepard, Mary Flynn, and Charles Kringas -- are bitterly separated in their relationships and then travel backwards in time to display where they came from and the idealism that permeated their lives twenty years before. Steven E. Baker will play Franklin. He has been seen at Marjorie Lyons Playhouse in The Diary of Anne Frank, Period of Adjustment, Bent, Oliver!, Assassins, Red Scare On Sunset, and Sweet Charity. He is a senior theatre major at Centenary College. Heather Bryson plays Mary Flynn, and is a Times Drama Award winner for her work in Marvin's Room and has been seen in Marjorie Lyons Playhouse productions of Prelude To A Kiss, Evita, Chicago, Ghosts, Smile, and Man of La Mancha. This past season she played the lead in Shreveport Little Theatre's production of Little Me. The role of Charles Kringas is being created by Patric McWilliams, winner of six Times Drama Awards for his work in The Visit, Applause, How To Succeed In Business, I Hate Hamlet, On The Twentieth Century, and Bent.

Supporting roles in Merrily We Roll Along are: Katie Hall as the Broadway Actress Gussie Carnegie; Robert Darrow as her producer-husband, Joe Josephson; Anna Maria Sparke plays Beth, the dutiful wife of Franklin; Brooks Ann Camper is the young Hollywood starlet, Meg Kincaid; and Mary Zapczynski and Daniel R. Keele play Beth's parents. Katie Hall and Brooks Ann Camper are Times Drama Award winners for their work in Lips Together, Teeth Apart, and Nunsense II, The Second Coming, respectively.

The rest of the large cast, who play multiple roles in the 20 years that the musical covers are: Miranda Shackelford, Lee Smith, Philip Hand, Alison Anderson, Loula Burton, Sonia Mitchell, Brookie Walker, Erik Champney, Kyle Greer, David LeMaster, Kenneth Scruggs, Logan Sledge, Jared Watson, Michael Scholfield, Ryan Williams, and Evan McClanahan.

Dana McLaughlin is the assistant director/stage manager and Beth Williamson is in charge of properties.

In 1931, after the California run of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's first collaboration, Once In A Lifetime, Hart began work on a play that would tell the story of 30 years in the life of an American family, from the innocence and optimism that opened the 20th century to the dashed hopes engendered by the Crash of 1929.

Noel Coward's Cavalcade opened in October 1931, and Hart found so many points in comon between his half-finished work and Coward's stirring epic of the life of an English family during the same period that he set aside his own play.

When he returned to it he altered the time span from 30 years to 18 and the emphasis of the story from a family to an individual whose proud, youthful ideals have run aground on middle age's compromising shoals. Also, he conceived the bold, innovative -- and it was innovative -- idea of having the action in his play move backward, with each scene taking place at an earlier time than the preceding one. As Kaufman joined Hart to complete the work, it went through a number of title changes, beginning as Wind Up An Era, then becoming in turn, All Our Yesterdays, Career, and finally, Merrily We Roll Along.

It opened on September 29, 1934, to a large measure of critical success and substantial audience acceptance, and was named one of the season's 10 best plays.

One of the original cast members was the young actor Robert Griffith. Twenty years later, with a musical titled The Pajama Game, Griffith formed a producing partnership with a stage manager who, like Griffith, had worked under the aegis of George Abbott -- Harold Prince.

The idea of turning Merrily We Roll Along into a musical was set in motion by Harold Prince's wife, Judy. She suggested he do a show about young people, their vision of the world and their feelings about what adults have been doing wrong with their lives. Thinking about this, Prince recalled the Kaufman and Hart play. Here was a framework for a cast of young people and a focus for the things he wanted to say about American life during the past, often disillusioning, 25 years. The theme is set forth in Polonius' advice to Hamlet, "This above all: to thine own self be true," which was quoted by Kaufman and Hart in the closing scene of their play.

Stephen Sondheim, whose close association with Prince began with West Side Story in the mid-1950s readily agreed to write the score, and author George Furth, who collaborated with Prince and Sondheim on the landmark musical Company in 1970, was asked to do the book.

Merrily We Roll Along, which opened November 16, 1981, at the Alvin Theatre, is a musical about friendship and the frustration of youthful ideals. It tells the story of Franklin Shepard, an attractive young man who wants only to write music. Other young people are drawn to him -- his talented high school classmate Charley Kringas, with whom he composes three Broadway shows; the promising writer Mary Flynn, who falls in love with him; and an aspiring singer, Beth Spencer, whom he marries. One by one he loses them.

The time span of the show is 1957-1976, a period during which America became increasingly fragmented, me-centered, and enamored of instant celebrity. Almost every scene unfolds in a public place.

Some of Sondheim's most beautiful and hummable music comes from Merrily We Roll Along and besides the title number, includes "That Frank," "Good Thing Going," "Old Friends," "Franklin Shepard, Inc.," "Growing Up," "Not A Day Goes By," "Now You Know," "It's A Hit," "Bobby and Jackie and Jack," "Opening Doors," and "Our Time."

The box office for Merrily We Roll Along opens on Tuesday, May 27, and will be open from 12 noon till 4 p.m. daily. All seats for this musical will be $15. A $2 discount is available for groups of 25 or more. Tickets may be reserved by calling 869-5242 during box office hours.

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